first impressions

Last night, as I was lying in bed under a mosquito net, trying to find some reprieve from the heat and watching Sex and the City, I was reminded of my first few weeks in Pachalum. The stickiness, the mosquito net, even the choice in TV show was all a direct replica of those first few days. The only thing that was different was the country.

As humans, I think we are destined to look for familiarity in the unfamiliar. How often do we arrive in a new city or country only to think of how it reminds us of somewhere else? How often has my step in researching a new country been looking to see if there is a Starbucks? I latch on to wisps of things- tigo cell phone service being provided, a bumpy tuk tuk ride down a dirt road, a glimpse of the US Embassy, a conversation with a current PCV- to provide a sense of place and anchoring. It is no coincidence that upon stripping down and climbing under my mosquito net, all I wanted to do was watch Sex and the City. It also provided some comfort; I have done this before, I will do this again. My old Peace Corps mantras started playing in my head: human beings are incredibly resilient.

I’m living in Dar es Salaam, where red clay backroads, leafy green trees, and tin roofs are juxtaposed with tall glass hotels, highways, and fancy cars. Women wear brightly colored, patterned dresses that stand out against the grey buildings. People drive on the left side of the road, and I have more than once gone to the wrong side of the car. Traffic is constantly bumper to bumper, with the color-coded buses, tuk tuks, and cars clogging the streets in equal proportions. I’ve spent a lot of time in traffic over the first few days, as Mr. Mabula has been kind enough to introduce me to the people I will be working with and the city I will be working in. Sitting in the front seat of a car has allowed me the chance to observe the people and places. Even though I cannot see every direction at once, I am desperately trying to.

There are several different neighborhoods in Dar es Salaam, and each one of them has their own intricacies. There is a flooded dirt road within half a mile of skyscrapers, and beautiful apartment complexes a neighborhood over from the less affluent parts of town. I cannot tell the difference between some of the neighborhoods, while others are startlingly different worlds. I am looking forward to knowing each one of them.

I’m headed in for a meeting with the health clinic I will be working at, to discuss what I can help with this summer, so this is all for now. I’m already intrigued by the landscape of this city and impressed by the kindness of everyone I have met.

And yes, I have found Nutella.

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